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How to Build Expertise in a New Field

APR15_08_129081427
Absorbing deep knowledge won’t happen overnight. But frequently asking two powerful questions can put you on the right track: “Why?” and “Can you give me an example?”

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Better pay, more joy in the job, or prerequisite to promotion? Whatever your reasons for deciding to build expertise in a new field, the question is how to get there.

Your goal, of course, is to become a swift and wise decision-maker in this new arena, able to diagnose problems and assess opportunities in multiple contexts. You want what I call “deep smarts” — business-critical, experience-based knowledge. Typically, these smarts take years to develop; they’re hard-earned. But that doesn’t mean that it’s too late for you to move into a different field. The following steps can accelerate your acquisition of such expertise.

Identify the best exemplars. Who is really good at what you want to do? Which experts are held in high regard by their peers and immediate supervisors? Whom do you want to emulate?

Assess the gap between you and them. This requires brutal self-assessment. How much work will this change require, and are you ready to take it on? If you discover the knowledge gap is fairly small, that should give you confidence. If you determine that it’s really large, take a deep breath and consider whether you have the courage and resolve to bridge it.

Read more at HBR.org

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